Can chiropractors help win games from the sidelines in regard to athlete performance and improving strength?
Nothing excites a football player more than measurable gains in strength and athlete performance. Prior to one semi-professional football game where I was working as an on-site chiropractor, one of the players asked me to adjust his foot during the middle of warm-ups. He had foot pain which seemed to be localized to his navicular. I was reluctant, and suggested that we do it next game, before his feet were “not so warmed up.” All kidding aside, I told him I was happy to do what I could to relieve his foot pain.
Adjusting the foot
There is a long-established relationship between the navicular bone and psoas strength. Based on this relationship, I tested his hip flexors as part of my evaluation.
I was not surprised to see his psoas on the affected side was markedly weak. I recall it being at most three out of five on the Medical Research Council (MRC) scale. Upon palpatory examination, there was a clear malposition of his navicular. A brisk long axis adjustment, with contact on the navicular, corrected the malposition. With the adjustment completed, I re-tested his hip flexors. He was amazed by how much stronger his leg was. His strength had easily increased to be a full five out of five on the MRC scale.
Prior to weight-bearing, I taped up his foot and ankle, and with his first few steps, he noticed his foot pain abated. He also reported hip flexion to be easier on the side he received the adjustment. He was amazed by how the foot adjustment “unlocked” strength in his lower limb, providing markedly improved athlete performance instantaneously.
Check leg strength
Soon after he returned to his warm-up, word about his increased strength spread like a viral video. Before I knew it, I had a lineup of football players, all looking for “the strength adjustment.”
One by one, I adjusted what seemed like a plethora of warm and moist feet, one after another. Everyone who received an adjustment was equally amazed and thrilled about the benefit they experienced with such a quick and simple procedure. Needless to say, the foot adjustment soon became routine at every game. Players felt like the procedure gave them an edge, and they said it ultimately gave them greater confidence out on the field.
That year, we went on to win the national championships. We had an incredibly talented team, but at every opportunity, I jokingly reminded some players about what my adjustment did, and how that must have played a major role in the success of the team.
Maintain the effect with a custom flexible orthotic
As I reflected on the season and my protocol of testing, adjusting and re-testing, I came to realize that some players who wore custom-made flexible orthotics, which I provided, were able to maintain the effect of the adjustment better than others.
There seemed to be an effect where custom orthotic supported the adjustment to the foot, allowing for a prolonged and sustained benefit. This same effect was not seen in those who were without the custom-made flexible device, as it seemed like the benefit of the adjustment quickly extinguished, and they were often in need of a touch-up adjustment at some point during the game.
Athlete performance: making a case for strength care
Having seen firsthand what the adjustment can do to enhance strength and athlete performance, I asked myself if this could be considered maintenance care. While the treatment may be congruent with maintaining musculoskeletal well-being, I felt this type of treatment would be best referred to as “strength care.”
Much like the way maintenance care helped maintain overall musculoskeletal health, this type of chiropractic treatment was unique and deserved its own category of care. At that point, the idea of the strength care category was born. Soon after, strength care became a program of care implemented in my office. Since then, I have been offering strength care to numerous athletes, from soccer players to swimmers. All have found significant benefit in athlete performance performance, not only with my care, but also with maintaining the effect by using a custom-made flexible orthotic that supports the three arches of the foot.
This is the first in a two-part series about adjusting and supporting the foot for the purposes of increasing strength. In the follow-up article I will discuss the adjustments I have used in the foot and provide a rationale and explanation about the increased lower limb strength patients experience with a foot adjustment. Moreover, I will also discuss how supporting the foot with a custom flexible orthotic will result in maintaining the benefits many have already experienced.
DENNIS K. LIU, DC, is a graduate of the University of Toronto, Scarborough (BSc.), and Faculty of Medicine (M.Sc.). He graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in 2004, and currently practices in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. He has been teaching neuroscience at CMCC for the past 18 years. On campus he is also the Foot Levelers College Liaison, teaching students about the benefits of using a custom orthotic that supports the three arches of the foot. For more info, go to FootLevelers.com.